IHOP’s Big Boy?

The end of Laurel's original IHOP, 1995. (Photo courtesy of Eric Ziegler)

As a kid, I walked from Steward Manor to the mall at least once a week. Under the railroad overpass on Bowie Road, up past the Fair Lanes bowling alley on Marshall Avenue, and on beyond the Ponderosa/Sizzler Steakhouse before crossing Route 1—cutting through the Bob’s Big Boy parking lot along the way.

Then, upon entering the Laurel Shopping Center grounds, I’d find myself beside the tall, imposing A-frame structure with the blue roof—the International House of Pancakes.

A 1970s postcard featuring an out of state, but remarkably similar setting.

Laurel’s IHOP was originally located in the iconic building for which it was designed, and situated just beside what was originally the Hecht Co. building (then Woolco, and then Jamesway…and soon to be L.A. Fitness). It occupied the space now being used by the extended strip mall parallel to Washington Blvd. In fact, when you go to that Starbucks and await your beverage,  you’ll be standing approximately where you once would’ve been eating pancakes. The entire left side of this shopping center (including Starbucks and Petco) sits on what was originally the IHOP grounds; as throughout the 1980s, only Radio Shack, Long & Foster Real Estate, and the Grecian Spa were housed there. Amazingly, Radio Shack is still in that same location on the corner beside Marshall Ave.

(historicaerials.com)

In the summer of 1993, an unusual move took place. IHOP decided to leave its building, and move into a slightly larger one just across Washington Blvd.—in the building that had recently been vacated by Bob’s Big Boy—where it continues to operate today.

But while highly successful, today’s modern IHOP doesn’t have nearly the same nostalgic aura that it had in the old building. Case in point, here are a few vintage pieces that represent that era quite well—including an actual menu from 1974 that will totally have you craving pancakes.

Before the building was demolished in 1995, it briefly saw new life as a Christmas decoration shop called “Santa’s Cottage”. The most notable change was the roof, which went from IHOP blue to Santa red. Still, passersby continued to mistake the building for what it originally was. According to a November 21, 1993 Washington Post article written by popular Laurel Leader columnist, Tony Glaros, “the old place still attracts creatures of habit in search of oatmeal, not ornaments.” Santa’s Cottage manager Carter Hoyle added, “It took about a month and a half to get the pancake smell out of here.”

For many Laurelites, myself included, there will always remain a connection between IHOP and Bob’s Big Boy. I can’t think of one without remembering the other. I’m sure there are other former Bob’s Big Boy locations that were eventually taken over by IHOP, but I don’t believe it was a universal change. So it was rather ironic—yet quite fitting—to come across an eBay listing for these vintage glasses, being sold as a pair. I doubt the auction will last until Christmas, but if it does, perhaps I’ll ask Santa for them—thus completing the trifecta.

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